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Paper Mario: Sticker Star review

Bowser to the left, Kamek to the right, stuck in the middle with Mario

We haven't spent much time in Japanese playgrounds but we're pretty sure their sticker economy is out of whack. British school kids know that a person's worth is measured by the number of sticky-backed football players living in their pocket. This writer once saw someone eat a crisp out of a gutter in order to seal the deal on a shiny Man City club logo.

Such behaviour doesn't fly in Japan, not, at least, based on Sticker Star's blasé approach to the hobby. The game practically gives the things away, sticking them on walls, bushes, trees, fences, logs... it's sticker hyperinflation of the worst kind.

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It makes sense in context. In Paper Mario: Sticker Star stickers are life. Mario can't attack, heal, solve puzzles or go to the toilet (probably) without stickers. It's a land so crazed for stickers they named their capital Decalburg. All commerce revolves around stickers, the only topic of conversation is stickers and the major social event is the annual Sticker Fest. It's the stuff of the Panini CEO's wildest dreams and is probably a result of the world's atmosphere being 95 per cent glue fumes. Look under the adhesive addiction, however, and there's a familiar game.

After Super Paper Mario's 2D/3D flip-flopping, Sticker Star returns to the 3D papercraft world that defined the first two Paper Mario games. Hooray, we say. After Super Paper Mario, the only sticker our paper-thin plumber needed was a Band-Aid. His Wii quest was a bloated misstep: big on charm, light on substance.

Intelligent System's appetite for innovation took Mario out of his RPG comfort zone into shallow action-RPG territory. Kudos to the team for not resting on their laurels, but did it really need changing? They were some damn comfy laurels.

Got Got Got Got

We're back in the land of turn-based battles spiced up with action commands that reward timed button presses with bonus bursts of damage or defence. This extra layer of interaction has always separated Paper Mario from other drab, menu-prodding RPGs and still works its magic now. If you played the N64 or GameCube instalments you'll sense muscle memory kicking in within minutes. Tapping A just before you squish a Goomba, or as the hammer reaches the apex of its swing, is just as satisfying now as it was in 2004.

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There's a catch: in order to perform a move, you need the relevant sticker and stickers are single-use only. As such, every individual attack has to be foraged from the world or purchased from sticker shops. In practice, it means that, while Mario's moveset is almost unchanged from the first two games - a mix of jumps, hammers and traditional Mario power-ups - access to attacks differs from battle to battle. To begin with it plays as fussily as it sounds: you spend the first few hours either cursing the lack of desired moves, or obsessively collecting every sticker in a state of deranged paranoia.

The trick is to go with the flow and adapt to whatever hand the game throws you. You could enter and exit a level repeatedly in order to stock up on overpowered Hopslippers (10 jumps instead of one) or Line Jumps (bopping along multiple foes), but it's more fun to embrace the quirkier corners of Mario's arsenal. Getting to grips with spiked helmets, ninja stars, sleepy sheep hammers and projectile-swatting raccoon tails is more compelling than pulling off the same move 20 times in a row... and that's before you discover the wonder that is Goat Attack.

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11 comments so far...
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  1. Liefesa Thursday 6th Dec 2012 at 13:04

    Looks pretty good - maybe some future DLC support will bolster its score?

  2. imbusydoctorwho Thursday 6th Dec 2012 at 13:24

    Never played a Paper Mario game before,so hopefully it'll find it's way into my Christmas stocking this year.

  3. toffeeman30 Thursday 6th Dec 2012 at 13:34

    thats more like it, a nice modest score

  4. King Slazo Thursday 6th Dec 2012 at 13:35

    I've heard plenty of good, and bad, things about this. I'll be playing it come Christmas, and hoping that the naysayers are just being overly dramatic...

  5. MartinIsAwesome Thursday 6th Dec 2012 at 17:17

    As I've said elsewhere, having had the chance to play a portion opf the game already has got me totally excited for it. Even though it's a much more stripped down RPG system (without conventional action commands and XP) it still feels like the original Paper Mario which after Super Paper Mario is very welcome.

  6. thenintendoer Thursday 6th Dec 2012 at 18:28

    ill proabbly pick thisnup at some point but im still not sure about the lack of rpg features most notably the companions which i loved in the other games

  7. tohaker Saturday 8th Dec 2012 at 22:05

    14 hours doesn't sound too good... I was gonna dish out the Ł40 just to download it but now I think I'll wait until either some DLC comes out or they reduce the price to Ł30.

  8. LOZanges Friday 14th Dec 2012 at 19:19

    Nintendo and Intelligent should make more PROPER Paper Mario games. (not like Super Paper Mario) They should care a bit more about stuff other than New Super Mario Bros.

  9. harrywoodward Sunday 16th Dec 2012 at 14:50

    I think this game is really good even though I haven't played it yet its certainly better than super paper Mario from a game play standpoint plot wise its ok not as good a super paper marios story and especially not ttyd story overall I think its a good way to get started with the paper mario series id give it an 8/10 :D

  10. bigterence Monday 17th Dec 2012 at 19:59

    lovin this.overflowing with mario magic.Amazon 25 smackers for christmas.

  11. Malorak Friday 19th Jul 2013 at 06:29

    Oh god.

    When I heard about this game, I was stoked.

    Paper Mario (1) kinda invented the whole series. No biggie. Thus, it did alot right and few things wrong.

    Paper Mario: The Thousand Year door was amazing. It took the first game, gave it a better story, a little improvement of gameplay and...Flat humor.
    Yeah, yeah. I'll be sitting in the corner.

    Super Paper Mario...Well, it tried to take Super Mario bros. and stick RPG Elements to it. Add to this a Mission-based game and it...Still worked! The Story was amazing, the game looked and sounded great and the gameplay was atmost okay.
    But as I said - it worked.

    And Paper Mario Sticker Star...Took away the awesome story. Alright, we'll get something cool in exchange right? Gameplay? Yeah. Actually this is Paper mario 1 but without the cool fighting. We got Items! ...Only items.

    This doesn't work. Bosses can be killed easily by using 1 huge item and if you don't have that specific one...Well, just spam the other ones and the Boss dies. The end.

    So...Shallow gameplay, a bad story...What DOES it have? Nice visuals and the jazziest Soundtrack ever.

    Does this make up for having nothing else? No.

    This game is a disappointment and I hate it for taking the place of what could've been another great Story.

    6/10. From my side, that is.

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